SPRING 2017 | THE ARGENTINE SEASON
M A R K V E S T E Y: A R E M A R K A B L E M A N
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HURLINGHAM THE ARGENTINE ISSUE
CONTENTS 0 9 _ P O N Y L I N ES The latest polo news, including the HPA chief executive’s column 1 8 _ H PA STATE M ENT An update on UK visa rules 2 0 _ A N E W PAC E OF P L AY As advancements in technology affect the way we play polo, Charlie Froggatt examines how the sport can embrace the changes 2 2 _ M A K I N G H I STORY Reflecting on the history of polo at Cambridge University 2 4 _ M O R E TH R I LL ING T H AN F ICT ION A look at the extraordinary life of polo legend and war hero Tommy Hitchcock as celebrated in a series of mid-century comic books
Mark Vestey, left, and Victor Law enjoying Montecristos and vintage port on a Concorde flight to New York in 1975
2 6 _ L I Q U I D AS S E TS We raise a glass to the exceptional selection at London’s Hedonism Wines 2 8 _ W I D E R H O R I ZONS IPA chief Mark Bellissimo envisions a bright future for polo in Florida
Polo player and Jaeger-LeCoultre ambassador Clare Milford Haven on
Executive Editor Peter Howarth
her tireless fight to raise awareness for mental-health issues
Editor Gemma Latham
The veterinary surgeon and polo commentator explores the issues surrounding the most contentious issue in pony breeding: cloning
Editor-At-Large Alex Webbe Art Director Julia Allen Picture Editor Amy Wiggin Contributing Photographer Tony Ramirez
3 6 _ B A N D O F B R OT H E RS Wallace Ashton recalls the epic journey his father and uncles undertook
Chief Copy Editor Lucy Frith
in the 1920s to prove polo was just as competitive ‘down under’
Deputy Chief Copy Editors Kristin Braginetz, Gill Wing Copy Editor Tanya Jackson
4 2 _ B AC K I N TH E SADDL E Medical professor Hilali Noordeen on the groundbreaking advancements being made in spinal cord injury research and treatment
S HOW MEDIA Editorial Managing Director Peter Howarth
4 6 _ A TR U E G E N T L E M AN
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A tribute to the late, great Mark Vestey from his son Ben T H I S P A G E : P H O T O C O U R T E S Y O F T H E V E S T E Y F A M I LY
Assistant Editor Jemima Wilson
3 4 _ O P I N I O N : H ÉCTOR M ART E LL I
C O V E R : P R I N C E C H A R L E S A N D M A R K V E S T E Y, 1 9 8 0 ; R E X / S H U T T E R S T O C K
HURLIN GHAM MAGAZIN E Publisher Roderick Vere Nicoll
3 0 _ A M ATC H M A DE IN H E AVE N
5 3 _ ACTI O N The Triple Crown, Thai Polo Cup, Townsend Cup, Scottsdale Polo Party, Copa Cámara de Diputados, Chilean Open, Thai Polo Open 6 6 _ P L AY I N G AWAY
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Yale Polo Club members Doug Barclay and Joe Williams reflect on their
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FOREWORD I think you will find the words and features in this spring issue interesting. We have published a statement from the HPA on the visa issue. It has been a difficult process but progress is being made. In the Talk section, we cover a range of topics – Charlie Froggatt investigates how advancements in technology are changing polo and how the sport can reap the benefits, while Jaeger-LeCoultre ambassador Clare Milford Haven discusses the importance of raising awareness for mental-health issues. In Features, Wallace Ashton describes the epic journey his father and uncles undertook in the 1920s to prove polo was just as competitive in Australia. They played in London and Long Island and, with the sale of their ponies, were able to buy several large properties back home. Meanwhile, Hilali Noordeen is passionate about his polo, but in his work life is developing groundbreaking new treatments set to revolutionise the recovery rate of spinal cord injuries. On our cover is Mark Vestey, a remarkable English gentleman who lived life very well. His son Ben pays tribute to a man who no one ever had a bad thing to say about. Finally, in the Action section, Héctor Martelli gives his account of the Triple Crown. You will see reports on the Cámara, the Chilean Open and more. On the publishing front, I would like to thank Arabella Dickie who was the editor of Hurlingham for more than eight years, and welcome Gemma Latham, who has done an excellent job editing the spring issue. For all the latest polo news and action, visit hurlinghampolo.com
RODERICK VERE NICOLL PUBLISHER
B E N V E S T E Y began playing polo
W A L L A C E A S H T O N was
H I L A L I N O O R D E E N is
J A C Q U E L I N E G I L B E R T is
aged eight. He has represented
raised in Australia on an 8,000-acre
a consultant spinal surgeon at the
a second-generation polo player
England in the winning team at the
grazing station that his father, Jim
Royal National Orthopedic Hospital.
from New Zealand and a former
European Championships and
Ashton, purchased after the Long
He holds a doctorate of medicine
captain of the Cambridge University
reached the semi-finals of the
Island polo pony sale in 1930.
from the University of Oxford, where
Polo Club. Currently studying
British Open Gold Cup. During his
Wallace rode from a young age. His
he played polo for the Old Boys’
entrepreneurship at the University
subsequent military career, Ben was
first polo tournament was Goulburn,
team. He enjoys arena and outdoor
of Cambridge, Jacqueline co-
captain of the Regimental, Army and
which he has won three times: in
UK polo and has competed in the
founded luxury wearable technology
Combined Services polo teams.
1966, 2006 and 2015.
Arena Gold Cup for three years.
company Camford 1209.
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ONES TO WATCH FRED & JULIAN MANNIX
K AT E R I N A M O R G A N
Fred and Julian Mannix are the sons of Fred Mannix Sr, who played in Canada and California for Fish Creek. The brothers play in Argentina as Alegría. Fred Jr reached the finals of the Argentine Open in 2013 with Alegría but lost out to La Dolfina. Last year Fred competed in the Triple Crown. ‘We set out to make all three semi-finals, which we accomplished,’ he says. ‘However, we were disappointed to not reach one of the finals. The truth is, we had two
teams in front of us that played better through the season.’ However, the Canadian took lessons from the experience. ‘We need six to 10 excellent horses to add to our strings so we can reach the last chukka and the chance to play in a final.’ Fred Jr’s younger brother Julian, meanwhile, was part of the Alegría team that won the 2014 US Open, and last year’s Copa Cámara de Diputados in Argentina (see page 62).
The brothers are in the Dominican Republic playing for Alegría-El Milagro at Casa de Campo. They reached the final of the first tournament of the Bronze Cup but lost to Lechusa Caracas. Fred Jr recently bought the Canadian and Argentine rights to the Hurlingham 1875 brand and will soon be rolling out collections in each location. This summer, he plays the Queens and the Gold Cup and captains the Commonwealth team in the Coronation Cup.
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HURLINGHAM REDESIGN Welcome to the newly redesigned issue of Hurlingham. The magazine has a refreshed, contemporary look and feel for the new year, reflecting the fast-moving and forwardthinking pace of polo in 2017.
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CASA DE CAMPO The 2017 edition of Polo Challenge kicked off on 12 January in the Dominican Republic, the schedule of which was presented at Palermo in December. The series is being played at Lechuza Caracas RD and Casa de Campo. The first Polo Challenge tournament for the year, the Bronze Cup, took place between 12-28 January (12- and 22-goal); the Silver Cup is being played between 9-25 February (12- and 22-goal); the Gold Cup will take place from 4-26 March (12- and 22-goal); and the Caribbean Open from 30 March-15 April (12- and 26-goal). Ten-goalers Juan Martín Nero and David ‘Pelon’ Stirling will take part in the Polo Challenge season once again.
THE HERBIE PENNELL CUP Villa del Lago defeated Postage Stamp Farm 12–9 in the Herbie Pennell final at the International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC) in Wellington, Florida. Despite the two teams bringing the score to a draw several times in the first half, Postage Stamp maintained a one-goal lead throughout. Villa del Lago owned the second half, though, taking a 9–5 advantage in the fourth chukka. The four-goal gap remained during the fifth, before Postage Stamp tightened it to a more respectable three-point loss in the final.
English players have certainly been spreading their wings during the winter months, and congratulations to El Remanso who once again made the final of the Copa Cámara de Diputados at Palermo (page 62), but lost in an exciting final to Alegría who were playing under the new Hurlingham 1875 brand. The England Ladies team also made their debut at Palermo. Unfortunately, they were somewhat messed around by the weather and got off to a slow start from which they were unable to recover, but it was a landmark in women’s polo nevertheless. England recently played for the FIP Snow Polo World Cup in China. Captained by James Harper, all three players had experience playing on the snow, so the team was very much the one to beat. After a good start with two wins, one against the eventual winners Argentina, we sadly lost in a very tight game against Hong Kong and ended up fourth. At the same time, an England arena team played the US in Arizona for the Townsend Trophy (page 59) but went down by two goals. In among all the travel has, of course, been the issue with the Home Office concerning visas. An area of immense frustration for all concerned, it has now been well documented (page 18). It is hard to predict how the season will look at this stage but the HPA has been working hard to limit the damage to the sport. I hope that 2017 will work in spite of these very serious and significant impositions on all levels of polo.
MAKING HISTORY IN THE POLO HALL OF FAME
Lovy Beh is senior vice president of BP Healthcare Group and the founder of Lovy Pharmacy. She is also the president of the Malaysian Community Pharmacy Guild. She has been playing polo since the age of 12 and was the first female Asian player to play on field no 1 in Palermo, Argentina.
I began playing polo with my dad and brother when I was 12. I started with show jumping, but once I took up polo, there was no turning back – I was hooked! Polo is our family sport. It helps to improve my management skills, which benefits our healthcare business. For me, the perfect game of polo is hitting a few good shots, scoring some goals, playing with great teammates, and, most importantly, coming out of the match with myself and my horse intact. My most memorable game was the final of the Pilara Cup in 2016, and I’ll never forget making history as the first Asian female polo player to play on field no 1 in Palermo, Argentina. To date, the highest goal polo I’ve played is the 22-goal Laureus charity cup in England against the King Power team. It was amazing to have Pablo MacDonough and David Stirling, champions of the Palermo Open 2016, as my teammates. I’m also particularly proud of being awarded MVP during the 2016 Laureus Polo Cup in England, and winning the Polo One Charity Cup in 2016 alongside Francisco Elizalde, Hilario Ulloa and the Malaysian Youth and Sports Minister YB Brigadier General Khairy Jamaluddin.
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GRAND CHAMPIONS WINTER SEASON The much-anticipated 2017 winter season at Wellington’s Grand Champions Polo Club started in January with a record number of teams, players and leagues. Highlights of the season are the Sterling Cup (22 February-11 March); the US$50,000 National 12-Goal Tournament (1-11 March); the National 20-goal (15 March-1 April); and the US$100,000 World Cup Tournament (1-15 April) – a unique winner-takes-all single-elimination tournament, open to teams of any handicap from 0 to 40.
The 16-20-goal Sterling Cup – which was the second tournament of the 22-goal season at the Palm Beach Polo and Country Club, attracting 16 teams – and the World Cup have both been resurrected by Grand Champion Polo Club owners Marc and Melissa Ganzi in the hope of recapturing the prestige of the game’s heyday. The Ganzis purchased Lyndon Lea’s 102.8-acre Zacara compound during the summer and renamed it Santa Rita Polo Farm after her grandmother, who passed away on 29 December 2012.
MUSEUM OF POLO; CHUKKERTV
HOOKED ON POLO LOVY BEH
On 17 February, the Museum of Polo will host the Hall of Fame awards gala and induction ceremony. Icon Mariano Aguerre will be honoured for his career in American polo and John ‘Jackie’ Murphy (left) is recognised as the posthumous inductee, having compiled an enviable record in polo before his untimely death, aged 37. Museum founder Leverett S Miller will be honoured for outstanding contributions to the sport, and the Horses to Remember honouree of the early era is Chicken, who made polo history under Malcolm Stevenson. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org
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IPC’s new CEO Mark Bellissimo said there are 8 million skiers in the US, 24 million tennis players, 25 million golfers and 27 million people who are doing something with horses. He aims to convert some of that 27 million to polo.
After 16 years playing with Dubai in England, this summer Adolfo Cambiaso will play with Ben Soleimani’s RH Polo, joined by Rodrigo Andrade and Tommy Beresford. With Dubai, Cambiaso reached the Gold Cup final seven times (winning four times) and won the Queen’s Cup six times.
I N T E R N AT I O N A L I N T E R C O LL E G I AT E CHALLENGE CUP On 16 January, Team USA won the 2017 International Intercollegiate Challenge Cup held at the WestWorld equidome in Scottsdale, Arizona. The United Kingdom and the
Almost 90 per cent of the current US 0-goalers
United States alternate hosting this annual tournament, and both teams had each
have never had a rating above 0. Former
won the cup twice prior to this year’s match. The USA team was made up of Liam
10-goalers Owen Rinehart and Adam Snow –
Palacios, Team USPA member Julia Smith, Dalton Woodfin and Jillian Tietje. The
along with ex-England International Julian Daniels
UK team comprised Tobias Small, Samuel Boreham, Minnie Kerr-Dineen and Robin
– will host two weekends of coaching this spring
Ormerod. It was anybody’s game going into the final chukka, but with just over
to raise players to the next level.
a minute remaining, the USA pulled ahead by one, then scored again with just 20 seconds left to win the game 15–13. The Most Valuable Player was awarded to Robin Ormerod (pictured above); USA’s Dalton Woodfin received the Sportsmanship Award; and Best Playing Pony honours were presented to Hurricane, owned by George Dill.
The 123rd Argentine Open, held in December, was special in many ways. The first six chukkas were fast and fun to watch. La Dolfina dominated the last two chukkas, as Ellerstina lost concentration in the seventh. The game lasted only 80 minutes, ending 45 minutes earlier than normal.
Eduardo Novillo Astrada has put his name forward to be president of the Argentine Polo Association, along with Eduardo Heguy as a vice president, Facundo Pieres and Adolfo
G AY P O LO The England team (Henry Porter, Mark Baldwin, Will Lucas and Satnam Dhillon) will travel to Chantilly to compete for one of two European spots for the FIP World Cup in Australia. Will Lucas has won the Royal Windsor nine times, so he knows how to play in the medum goal.
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The first international Gay Polo League (GPL) outside North America concluded on 10 December 2016 at Bautista Heguy’s Chapa Uno Polo Club in General Rodriguez, Argentina. Three teams, made up of polo professionals and LGBT players, fought to become GPL Argentina champions, with PMG beating RSM 3–2, and Cedar Crest 2–1. Lots of laughter was shared both on and off the field, and the next edition of the Gay Polo League will be in Florida in April.
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SADDLE UP WITH... JERÓNIMO DEL CARRIL COUNTRY: ARGENTINA HANDICAP: 6-GOAL AGE: 19
When did you start playing polo? I started playing polo at my parents’ farm in La Pampa when I was seven because a friend challenged me to. I didn’t think it’d be much fun, so I said I’d only play with him if we played football after. We tacked up the horses and began playing, and I haven’t stopped since. What makes polo special for you? I really enjoy playing with friends, and I like that polo allows me to travel and play all over the world. Who do you respect most in polo? As a player, I respect Adolfo Cambiaso for what he’s achieved in his career – he continues to win and he’s still as motivated as ever. I also admire Juan Martín Nero; I play in the back position and watching Nero play is amazing.
LOVE OF MY LIFE PONY’S NAME: VASCA HARRODS SEX: MARE ORIGIN: ARGENTINA Vasca Harrods, ridden by Juan Martín Nero and owned and bred by Eduardo Heguy, won the Best Polo Argentino Bred award after the final of the 123rd Argentine Open Polo Championship. She was played three minutes in the first chukka; six minutes in the fifth chukka; and the last two minutes in the eighth – a performance confirming her excellence. Her bloodline is second to none. Her father was Polo Sol Puro, son of the famous El Sol and brother of La Luna, one of the best mares of all time. Her mother, Vasca Confianza, is the daughter of mare Oro Pastilla, one of Eduardo Heguy’s best playing ponies. According to Heguy, Vasca Harrods is strong and very easy to handle, but she stands out because of her personality and sensibility – two qualities that are very difficult to achieve at the same time.
CHUKKERTV The USPA has entered a three-year partnership with ChukkerTV to be the livestream provider for the USPA Polo Network on uspolo.org
What was your most memorable polo game? The final of this year’s Juvenile Open in Argentina. It was my third year playing with my team (Isidro Strada, Segundo Bocchino and Juan Martin Zubia) and we’d won the two previous years. We started off really badly and were down for most of the game, but we really wanted to win a third time, and we managed to turn it around right at the end.
– set to stream approximately 140 games in 2017 including the US Open Polo Championship and all Florida high-goal tournaments; the East Coast Open; Men’s and Women’s National Intercollegiate Championships; the Townsend Cup; the USPA International Cup and the National 20-Goal.
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INTRODUCTION As you may be aware, on 11 October 2016 the Home Office announced, without warning, that the HPA could not grant endorsements of Points Based System (PBS) sponsorships for the 2017 season until further notice. Since then, the HPA has been attempting to resolve the situation through negotiation and discussion. However, by December 2016 the HPA took the view that given the increasing time pressure of the situation and the absence of any satisfactory response from the Home Office, the HPA should instruct its solicitors to advise on alternative ways to reach a solution. Whilst discussions were still ongoing with the Home Office, the HPA took the view that it might not advance our ultimate aim if it were to issue a public statement or respond to issues raised on social media. Given the Home Office’s continuing refusal to lift the suspension on the HPA’s ability to grant endorsements and the inevitable impact on polo at all levels in the 2017 season, proceedings were issued 10 January against the Secretary of State. Set out below is a summary of the current position and the HPA will keep you updated with news of any developments. OVERVIEW On 11 October 2016 the Secretary of State for the Home Department (SSHD) suspended the HPA’s endorsement criteria, with the effect that no endorsement of PBS sponsorships may be issued by the HPA and no migrants could apply for entry clearance or leave to remain in the UK under PBS sponsorship to participate in the sport of polo. Negotiations were unproductive and despite repeated reminders about the time sensitivity of resolving the issue, the SSHD did not confirm when she would reach a decision. Any application to judicially review the SSHD’s decision must be issued within 3 months of the effective decision being communicated to the HPA. The ‘effective decision’ for these purposes was the email of 11 October suspending the HPA’s power to provide endorsements. The deadline for the issue of proceedings was therefore 10 January 2017. Following advice from Leading Counsel on the merits of the application, proceedings were drafted 10 January. Given the time pressure, the HPA’s advisers requested an urgent hearing on interim relief within 14 days of 10 January’s issue of proceedings. The interim relief was that the HPA was free to grant endorsements under the current criteria, or in the alternative allow endorsements under the amended criteria (so far as they could be understood at that time). Set out below is some of the background so that you may understand why the HPA decided it had no other option but to issue proceedings. 18
CHRONOLOGY • In July 2015 Mr Lee Beach, Senior Operational Policy Advisor within the Immigration and Border Policy Directorate, met with the HPA to discuss whether the endorsement criteria for polo remained fit for purpose and relevant. • Following that meeting, Mr Beach highlighted concerns as to the operation of the endorsement criteria and asked that the HPA revert to him by 11 August 2015. • On 10 August 2015 we responded in detail to his concerns. • By email dated 19 August 2015 Mr Beach responded that it should be “business as usual” as far as the HPA was concerned. In light of the concerns that had been raised, the HPA nevertheless thought it proper to continue discussions with the Home Office to ensure that everything was in order for the following season. On 3 December 2015 the HPA contacted Mr Beach indicating that a working group had been set up and suggested that there should be a meeting in March/April 2016 with Mr Beach with a view to finalising the endorsement criteria for the 2017 season. Mr Beach did not respond or take up the invitation. • However, without any warning or prior indication, on 22 September 2016 Mr Beach contacted the HPA to notify it of the need to discuss the endorsement criteria based on the Home Office’s decision to suspend the sponsor licences of a number of sponsors previously endorsed by the HPA. On 7 October 2016 a meeting took place between David Woodd and Oliver Hughes, for the HPA, and Lee Beach and Ragnar Clifford (of the Immigration and Policy Directorate). • By email dated 11 October 2016 Mr Beach wrote to the HPA with detailed and substantial proposed amendments to the endorsement criteria which would in our view have had a detrimental impact on polo at all levels within the United Kingdom. The proposed new criteria were also ambiguous and unclear and needed further discussion and clarification. That email also suspended the HPA’s ability to grant any further endorsements until further notice. • On 11 November 2016 a further meeting took place between the parties. The HPA set out in detail why the proposed criteria in their current form were unworkable for polo in the UK and that even if changes were to be brought in there would have to be a reasonable period to source and train up staff to replace those who would be excluded under the proposed changes. It was agreed that the HPA would make formal representations, including the provision of evidence, to ensure that the proposed new criteria were appropriate.
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• In the interim the HPA asked that the current endorsement criteria remain in place for the 2017 season because of the impossibility at this late stage of identifying enough sufficiently experienced staff to train and care for the horses. • On 18 November 2016 Mr Clifford responded on behalf of the SSHD, rejecting the request. • The HPA wrote to Mr Clifford again, by email dated 27 November 2016, reiterating the request for the endorsement criteria to be re-instated on an interim basis and setting out in more detail the very significant practical problems arising from their suspension. Further representations were sent to the SSHD on 2 December 2016 and 14 December 2016, addressing both the proposed substantive change to the endorsement criteria, as well as the need for the pre-existing criteria to be applied to the 2017 season. • The SSHD said a decision would be provided by Friday 16 December. Nothing was heard. In a follow up call on Monday 19 December between the HPA’s solicitors (Charles Russell Speechlys “CRS”) and Mr Beach, he said that he could not now confirm when a final decision would be provided. • On 21 December 2016 CRS sent a letter before claim, with time for reply abridged to 30 December 2016. On 22 December 2016 the SSHD acknowledged receipt but indicated that a substantive response would not be available until 4 January 2016. • On 4 January 2016 the SSHD responded substantively, contending that: – There had not been a failure to consult or provide sufficient notice of the proposed changes to the endorsement criteria as the HPA had been aware of the SSHD’s 19
concerns since July 2015; – There was nothing in the Code preventing the SSHD from seeking amendment to the endorsement criteria for an upcoming season; – Since the HPA had not agreed to the SSHD’s proposed changes, and since the previous criteria allegedly failed to comply with the principles of the sportsperson routes, there should be no endorsements under the previous criteria, until a final decision on the new criteria was made; – There had been no commitment to respond to the HPA’s representations by 16 December 2016. The SSHD’s officials were consulting with Ministers and would make a decision ‘as soon as possible’. However, at this time, they were ‘unable to give a specific deadline’. Upon receipt of this letter, a decision was taken to seek the opinion of Counsel as to the merits of a judicial review application. The HPA has instructed Judith Farbey QC and David Lemer. In light of the advice received, the HPA took the decision to issue proceedings and this was effected with an application requesting a hearing on interim relief in 14 days with the file to be placed before a judge in 48 hours. As part of the application for permission to seek Judicial Review, HPA asked for an urgent hearing on the ability to issue endorsements under Tier 5. This hearing was listed for 25 January 2017. However, late on 19 January 2017, the Home Office unexpectedly provided revised criteria for sponsor licences and endorsement of sponsorships by the HPA and stated that it would allow the HPA to endorse, but only for those eligible under the new criteria (see hpa-polo.co.uk). This meant that the hearing for interim relief (seeking removal of the prior suspension) on Wednesday 25 January could not take place, as the Home Office had lifted that suspension and provided new criteria . We have been considering the detail and wording of the new criteria with the Home Office. The new criteria did not take account of the realities of how polo is played in the UK, and the time frame for a change for 2017 remains unreasonable. The criteria did not include any avenue for players or grooms in polo below 15 goal, and in their letter lifting the ban the Home Office acknowledges very clearly that the criteria will be damaging to low goal polo as a whole, and its development. Further discussions have been held with the Home Office and we are waiting for confirmation of the outcome of those discussions, and any decision on future proceedings for the Judicial Review will be taken following further legal advice. We will do our best to inform you of that outcome as soon as we can.
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TA L K
A NEW PACE OF PLAY As polo embraces the world’s ever-evolving technological advances, Charlie Froggatt looks at how the game is accelerating with the times
Technology, such as live streaming apps and slow motion cameras, is changing the way we approach polo
Polo originated in Persia circa 600 BC, and for over 2,000 years spectators and sportsmen managed to successfully keep score without the help of technology. Fastforward to 2017 and we find ourselves amid the rapidly accelerating Age of Information, where no area of life goes untouched by devices and apps designed to enhance and streamline our experiences. But, when it comes to polo, is technology actually providing benefits and solving problems? Since the first drone flew over a polo field five years ago, the sport has seen
a steady increase in the use of technology, applied to a wide range of functions. These include umpiring, team preparation, individual performance and technique review, live streaming, statistics, education and even fantasy polo. The technology itself comes in many different formats such as drones, head cameras, slow motion cameras, computer software, online platforms and mobile applications. Combining all these technical advances to create something meaningful for the sport has been a trial-and-error process. But when
examining a few keys areas where it is making an impact, a strong case emerges for its benefits and advantages. The most fundamental way technology has become embedded in the sport is as a tool for umpires. There appears to be a direct correlation between its increased use and the increase in the speed of play within polo at the highest level. Data collected during the US high-goal season shows a 12.5 per cent decrease in the total number of fouls called per game in 2016, compared to the previous year. Similar results were seen
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during the UK high-goal season with a 10 per cent reduction in fouls in the 2016 Cartier Queen’s Cup and a 29 per cent reduction in the Jaeger-LeCoultre Gold Cup, when compared to their 2015 counterparts. The past two years have seen more use of instant replay in playback, better coverage through more camera angles, and more choice of reviewing apps for umpires. While instant replay may pause the action, it ensures the game is officiated accurately. Collaboration between the national associations AAP, HPA, USPA and FIP to train umpires in how to use technology efficiently seems to have made the biggest difference. Umpires have
adapted readily, and the way replay is used has been refined through protocols to ensure minimal disruption to play. But it’s not just during the game that technology is speeding things up. Online platforms now offer players fast access to high-definition footage they can stream on their phone, tablet or computer. Enabling them to review their performance and gain insight into the style and techniques of competing teams. Spectators also benefit from new state-of-the-art camera work and streaming services, with drone footage capturing exhilarating new angles demonstrating the skill and horsemanship
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in play from a viewpoint that is, arguably, better than the top stadium seats. When it comes to data capture and analytics, many players are not overly keen on seeing their ‘numbers’. But for coaches, data provides an invaluable tool. Fed back to the team in the right way, the information is hugely beneficial and, ultimately, can be used to gain an edge on opponents. But it’s not only coaches who are keen to keep abreast of the latest algorithms – data of this kind is now being used by Fantasy Polo League players. The computerbased game has armchair specialists thoroughly engaged and the data has a real value as players compete for cash prizes. Evidently the polo industry is discovering and embracing uses for technology that both solve a problem and increase engagement. The next step is to ensure this technology is accessible not only by the top players, but all players from entry-level upwards.
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MAKING HISTORY Steeped in tradition, the Cambridge University Polo Club is gallantly passing down the values of the sport to each new generation, as Jacqueline Gilbert attests
Among the 800-year-old cobbled streets and fairy-tale architecture of the University of Cambridge, it must be said the Game of Kings seems at home. It might not be surprising to learn that the Cambridge University Polo Club (CUPC), founded in 1873 by the Hon John Fitzwilliam, is one of the oldest clubs in the world. But it might surprise some to learn that, in 2017, CUPC is one of the largest clubs of any type at the university and is completely student run. Recognising polo’s unique ability to capture the hearts and minds of all who encounter the sport, its popularity at Cambridge reflects the club’s constitutional evolution – a focus firmly set on increasing the accessibility of
the game, and on teaching discipline, respect, passion, teamwork, pride and hard work. The club is founded on important traditions, not least sportsmanship in the oldest continuing polo fixture globally: the Varsity Polo Day (est 1878), played against Oxford University Polo Club (est 1874). The first Varsity match was played in pouring wet weather at the Bullingdon cricket ground as a five-a-side game using a tennis ball, and lasted 90 minutes. At the end of the 1870s, the Cambridge players felt strong enough to enter a team in the Hurlingham Club’s Champion Open Cup, which was the premier competition of the time and is equivalent to the modern-day Gold Cup.
Although they were defeated, the experience served them well. The club thrived over the following years and several Cambridge alumni went on to win medals in polo at the 1900, 1908 and 1920 Olympic Games. The international influence of the club is also notable for the alumni Sir Lancelot Stirling introducing polo to South Australia in 1874 and William Brooks-Close to Iowa and Illinois, USA in 1882. Today the club stands on the shoulders of these giants of polo history as a valuesdriven organisation with the Prince of Wales as the club president and Mr Ravi Tikkoo as chairman. The club operates with a student executive of four, supported by a team of 12
HANNAH WYLES, ALAMY
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Opposite: CUPC take to the beach in St Andrews in 2016. This page: A 1907 caricature of former Cambridge polo player Walter S Buckmaster, who also competed in the 1900 and 1908 Olympics
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student committee members and alumni relations. Responsibilities encompass running nine lessons per week, managing the recruitment of coaches, supplier partnerships, sponsorship activity, fixtures locally and internationally, marketing and communications, hosting an annual white-tie ball and other social events. This experience further strengthens the club’s values of responsibility, leadership, excellence, sportsmanship, diversity and teamwork with its alumni graduating to distinguished careers. Sponsorship money directly subsidises training and matches, from absolute beginners to the Varsity squad, with partners including Cambridge County Polo Club, Tata Communications, La Martina, Guards Polo Club, c1209, Champagne Gratiot-Pillière, La Matuza and Cobra Beer. The club enjoys governance from the Cambridge University Sports Syndicate, as well as an advisory board of alumni mentors (both on the pitch and in club operations). Looking forward, CUPC has been laying more cobblestones of innovation to pave the way for sustained polo growth within the Cambridge community. This year the student executive launched an alumni membership programme that includes lessons, representation and social opportunities. They also hosted the Tata Communications Atlantic Cup Polo Finals with Oxford, Guards, Harvard and Yale to popular acclaim. The success and professionalism of these endeavours extends polo to an increasingly wider audience and contributes knowledge and values that the sport would be proud to claim as its own to an expanding polo population.
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GUTTER CREDIT IN HERE
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MORE THRILLING THAN FICTION The extraordinary life of legendary polo-player Tommy Hitchcock led to him being celebrated as an exemplary American hero in a series of comic books, as Nigel à Brassard discovers
It is said that the illustrious American polo-player Tommy Hitchcock Jr was so well known he could walk up Park Avenue, from the New York Racquet Club to his apartment on 84th street, and at each corner the policemen would say ‘Good evening, Mr Hitchcock,’ and stop the traffic for him. Arguably America’s greatest ever polo player and an aviation hero of the First and Second World Wars, Hitchcock – a true immortal of the 1920s ‘Golden Age’ of sports – is celebrated through a number of mid-20th-century children’s non-fiction comics that give illustrated accounts of his achievements. True Comics is a series of graphic non-fiction stories published by George Hecht between 1941 and 1959, created to educate American children with the idea that ‘Truth is stranger and a thousand times more thrilling than fiction.’ ‘Ten-Goal Tommy’ – the cover story of the July 1946 issue – provides a four-page narrative of Hitchcock’s character, highlighting his time as a teenage pilot in the Lafayette Escadrille (a French unit made up of American volunteers) during WWI; his polo-playing career, including an
illustration of his greatest shot – a goal he scored from 170 yards to win the inaugural Copa de las Américas against Argentina in 1928; and his time served as a US Army Air Forces test pilot, picturing him with the P-51B Mustang fighter plane that he was involved in developing during WWII, and in which he was killed in 1944. A June 1945 comic in True Sport featured a four-page cartoon that tells the story of ‘Tommy Hitchcock – Man of Wings and Mallets!’, describing him as the man ‘who became a world war hero and the greatest polo player in the history of the game.’ The comic strip compares Hitchcock’s 10-goal rating as equivalent to a .400 baseball hitter, an ‘All-American’ in football or a golfer playing in the sixties, championing his credentials in the context of other popular American sports. Real Life Comics, which documented the adventures of the world’s greatest heroes, included a four-page comic strip story titled ‘Tommy Hitchcock – Prince of Polo!’, which draws comparisons between Hitchcock and the baseball player Babe Ruth, the boxer Jack Dempsey and the golfer Bobby Jones –
H I T C H C O C K ’ S P R O M I N E N C E W A S S O G R E AT, HIS INFLUENCE E X TENDED BE YOND SPORT
other great sportsmen of the 1920s Golden Age. Additionally, the story highlights Hitchcock’s heroic exploits in the two world wars that ensured he ‘carved a lasting niche in the hall of fame.’ The weekly comic Argosy contained a cartoon column called ‘Men of Daring’ and the October 15 1932 issue included a piece by Stookie Allen on Tommy Hitchcock – ‘The greatest polo player the world has ever seen and the youngest aviator to bring down an enemy plane in the war.’ It also triumphantly records Tommy’s success scoring as many goals in the 1921 Westchester Cup matches as the entire British team combined. Hitchcock’s fame and prominence was so great, his influence extended beyond the sporting community. The author F Scott Fitzgerald is said to have modeled the characters of both Tom Buchanan in his novel The Great Gatsby and Tommy Barban in Tender is the Night on him. Hitchcock is also the subject of Nelson Aldrich’s biography American Hero, and he featured in advertising for an array of products, such as PM Whiskey. Indeed, there has been much written about Tommy Hitchcock and his achievements. Writing about his performance in the 1927 Westchester Cup matches, Polo magazine concluded that ‘No one who has not seen a ten-goal player play fifteen-goal polo can imagine the stark power of this youth.’ An inspiring legacy indeed.
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LIQUID ASSETS Melanie Vere Nicoll discovers how London’s discerning oenophiles find sanctuary in Hedonism Wines, an intoxicating business venture from polo player Yevgeny Chichvarkin
Early Greek philosophy defined ‘hedonism’ as a belief that pleasure is the only intrinsic good, and Hedonism Wines was created with this ideology in mind. The boutique is owned by polo player Yevgeny Chichvarkin – the Russian businessman who made his millions as the co-founder of Evroset, which became one of Moscow’s largest mobile phone retailers. Chichvarkin now resides in Berkshire and founded the wine boutique, situated in London’s fashionable Mayfair, in 2010. The store was two years in the making
and the result is a feast for all the senses. An eye-catching chandelier adorns the entrance, made up entirely of upside-down wine glasses. Bottles displayed on the walls are held in place with lobster claws and handcuffed hands, while others are nestled in the roots of an ancient tree that wind their way around the room. The shop feels like a cross between a temple and a museum. However, despite its many quirky and whimsical details, Hedonism Wines is a serious business for the serious wine connoisseur with more than 5,500 bottles
of wine and 3,000 spirits in stock. Ancient bottles of wine and spirits dating back to the 18th century are on display behind glass, and venerable collectors can visit a vault where the rarest vintages are reverentially laid out. Spread over two floors, the wines to be discovered in-store range from the affordable to the exclusive, with the most expensive selling for more than £120,000. Legendary labels, which make up only a fraction of the exclusive collection, include Vin Jaune 1774, Krug Collection
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Opposite: Yevgeny Chichvarkin. This page, from top: Hedonism Wines’ Mayfair space; (from left) Bruce MerivaleAustin, Nicolas Pieres, Prince Harry and Yevgeny Chichvarkin at the Royal Charity Polo Cup, July 2016
1937, Château d’Yquem 1811 and PerrierJouët Belle Epoque. While immensely passionate and knowledgeable about wine, Chichvarkin displays equal enthusiasm when discussing his collection of spirits, observing with a wry smile that Hedonism Wines repatriate special bourbons back to the United States on a daily basis, and stock an especially rare 55-year-old Glenfiddich scotch. Other spirits include an 1803 Massougnes Cognac for £222,000 and a 62-year-old Macallan Lalique for £44,000. When asked about his polo, Chichvarkin exudes an endearing boyish vivaciousness and self-deprecating humour as he describes the huge amount of enjoyment he takes in the sport: ‘On the field you don’t feel like a fat 42-year-old bald person with a muffin top. You feel like you are 17 again – fast, young and proactive. Running quickly with the ball, leaving everyone behind… it is something you never feel with any other sport.’ Currently, the Russian 0-goaler plays at the Royal County of Berkshire Polo Club in club tournaments
D E S P I T E I T S W H I M S I C A L D E TA I L S , HEDONISM WINES IS A SERIOUS BUSINESS FOR THE SERIOUS WINE CONNOISSEUR
up to 10 goals during the outdoor and arena seasons. He has also played a royal day with Prince Harry. Chichvarkin relies on word of mouth as the sole means of promotion for his business and as such, the success of Hedonism Wines can be attributed wholly to the boutique’s exceptional selection of products and consummate service. In London, Chichvarkin has crafted a life for himself surrounded by his passions and by people who share in them, from the wine and spirit connoisseurs who take delight in visiting his shop, to engaging with fellow sportsmen on the playing field. hedonism.co.uk
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WIDER HORIZONS DAVID LOMINSKA
Mark Bellissimo outlines his vision to expand the reach of polo within Wellington, Florida, reports Darlene Ricker
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Opposite: Annabelle Gundlach on the field at IPC during the Joe Barry Cup Grand Champions versus Postage Stamp Farm. This page: (from left) Bob Puetz, Duncan Huyler and Mark Bellissimo
As the 2017 high-goal season kicked off at the International Polo Club Palm Beach (IPC) this January, the future of polo in Wellington took centre-stage at a conference led by the club’s new owner, Mark Bellissimo. The CEO of Wellington Equestrian Partners (WEP), who purchased the club at the close of the 2016 season, outlined his plans to grow polo at IPC and integrate it with the other major equestrian disciplines in Wellington. Bellissimo’s vision includes increased participation among players and fans, drawing attention to the 4,500 families who flock to Wellington each winter for equestrian pursuits. Among them, he expects to find new patrons to form new polo teams. ‘They know how to ride, and once given a chance to play the game they will find it so exciting, they’ll be hooked,’ he surmised. ‘[These people] are committed to Wellington, and fundamentally that is the greatest harvest area in the world to make transitions into the sport,’ he added. ‘The only way this sport can transition is through great accessibility.’ In order to accomplish that, Bellissimo underscored the concrete steps that must be taken: ‘We need to create an infrastructure,’ he stated. The bulk of the effort will go into creating an on-site polo academy next year, to help streamline the progression from other horse activities into polo. This will encompass a polo arena to provide a safe, fun environment for novice players. Bellissimo’s plans to kick-start this venture include
W E B E L I E V E I N T H E S P O R T, A N D T H AT THIS FACILIT Y IS GOING TO BE THE CENTRE OF THE UNIVERSE FOR AMERICAN POLO
a gladiator-themed polo night in the indoor arena at his company’s dressage venue, with equestrians from the hunting/ jumping world invited in a bid to generate some energy around the initiative. His partnership has also purchased automated riding simulators that recreate a horse’s walk, trot, canter and gallop within the different disciplines of hunting, jumping and polo. Other plans include IPC spring and summer camps and clinics to help develop interest, along with seeking out prize money and more sponsorship. Bellissimo was flanked at the speakers’ table by a cadre of polo authorities, among them United States Polo Association (USPA) executives Duncan Huyler (CEO) and Bob Puetz (executive director of services), as well as former show-jumper and Postage Stamp Farm patron Annabelle Gundlach, and the Grand Champions Polo Club captain Nic Roldan. Huyler and Puetz confirmed that the IPC is in discussion with the USPA to extend
the contract to hold the US Open Polo Championship at IPC beyond 2018. Bellissimo praised patrons Marc and Melissa Ganzi, highlighting that through their Grand Champions Polo Club they have offered great quality low-, medium- and high-goal polo in the winter, spring and autumn, for many years. He affirmed that Grand Champions and IPC have an excellent relationship and his ambition is for them to work together to develop year-round polo in Wellington: ‘We are hoping we can collaborate with the Ganzis to make this all work. We believe in [the sport] and we believe that this facility is going to be the centre of the universe for American polo,’ said Bellissimo. IPC’s 2017 season officially opened on New Year’s Day, and Bellissimo confirmed it was extremely successful, with attendance figures equalling those of the previous year. So far the signs look promising, with his grand vision set to flourish.
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A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN
ALINE COQUELLE, NACHO CORBALAN
One of polo’s most prominent female players and a Jaeger-LeCoultre ambassador, Clare Milford Haven tells Carolina Beresford why promoting awareness of men’s mental health issues is a cause close to her heart
‘I accompanied my husband George on a polo tour in Ghana, and he suggested I give stick-and-balling a try,’ reminisces Clare Milford Haven. ‘I thought he was being ridiculous, but I got on the horse and ended up riding flat-out for an hour. I couldn’t walk for four days afterwards, but that was it – I knew I had found my sport.’ Twenty-two years and countless trophies later, Milford Haven can still be seen speeding down polo fields around the world. ‘It’s been an amazingly positive thing in my life. It has opened up my eyes to the world around me – I’ve played in 25 different countries and it has just been incredible.’ While polo has formed a major part of her life, Milford Haven has spent the past decade campaigning to raise awareness of anxiety, depression and suicide in young people. After her son James took his own life in 2006, aged 21, Milford Haven discovered that suicide is the leading cause of death among young men in the UK. She founded the James Wentworth-Stanley Memorial Fund in his honour, with the aim of increasing society’s understanding of mental illnesses and to promote research and education to help prevent further tragedies.
Opposite: Clare Milford Haven wearing a Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso wristwatch. Above: Milford Haven plays in a friendly tournament at La Herradura in Pilar, Argentina
In November 2016, Milford Haven was invited to speak on the subject of suicide prevention measures in front of the Health Select Committee in Parliament. ‘It was a great privilege,’ she says. ‘My main goal is to open a series of centres, called James’ Place, where people who are in crisis can go for immediate help. After eight years of working really hard in this field, it was a huge step in the right direction to finally get up and speak in front of the right people.’ Milford Haven also works closely with a number of small charities. ‘I set up The Alliance of Suicide Prevention Charities [TASC] about six years ago. We meet quarterly to share information and we occasionally co-fund initiatives. It works very well. Awareness has grown a lot over the years – I have seen a big change – but while the stigma of mental health has lessened, the problem hasn’t yet gone away.’ Milford Haven has brought her polo and charity work together on several occasions, supported by the luxury watch brand Jaeger-LeCoultre, of which she is an ambassador. ‘I have been working with Jaeger-LeCoultre for 12 years,’ says Clare. ‘We have a very good, mutually supportive relationship. What they give me – such as
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The Row for James team crossed the Atlantic to raise funds for the James Wentworth-Stanley Memorial Fund and exceeded their £500,000 target. From left: Rory Buchanan, Toby Fenwicke-Clennell, Sam Greenly and Harry Wentworth Stanley
their continued sponsorship of my JaegerLeCoultre team and the Trippetts Challenge match, which kicks off the British high-goal season and was created in memory of James – justifies my polo playing, and in return, I have helped to raise the visibility of the brand both on and off the field.’ With the support of highly esteemed ambassadors such as Milford Haven leading the way, Jaeger-LeCoultre has cemented its reputation as one of the most authentic polo brands in the world, after its first affiliation with the sport in the 1930s when the first Reverso wristwatch was created. British colonial officers enjoying the pastime while on post in India grew frustrated by the frequency of discovering a broken watch-face after a match and requested a timepiece that could withstand the rigours of the sport. Jaeger-LeCoultre rose to the challenge and a long-lasting connection was formed. The watchmaker’s biggest investment in the sport came in 2014 when the brand became official sponsors of the Gold Cup for the British Open at Cowdray Park Polo Club, of which Milford Haven is a member. ‘They really love Cowdray,’ she says of the brand. ‘They love the family ethos of the club and
MILFORD H AV EN H A S BR O U GH T P OL O AND HER CHARIT Y WORK TOGETHER WITH T H E S U P P O R T O F J A E G E R - L E C O U LT R E
the fact it’s quite low-key, which might surprise people.’ The past two years of Gold Cup sponsorship have been hugely successful for both brand and club, and the partnership is set to continue in a similar vein. ‘Many Cowdray members have come up to me and said: ‘Thank you – this is the first time we have felt included at the Gold Cup.’ In the past, the majority of members were never invited into the sponsor’s tent – this was reserved for VIP guests only. The people at Cowdray are hugely appreciative.’ Milford Haven has been instrumental in Jaeger-LeCoultre’s growth within the sport and is the proud owner of no less than four of the brand’s Reverso watches. ‘The latest one they gave me is a bespoke creation and absolutely beautiful,’ she smiles. ‘I chose the things most personal to me for the engraving
inside – my three children’s initials, crossed polo mallets and my husband’s marquess’s coronet, which is symbolic of the Milford Haven/Mountbatten family. The tiny ruby on the dial reflects the ruby on my engagement ring; the blue face with diamonds represents the night sky with stars – infinity.’ Milford Haven’s passion for polo and for her charity work demonstrates a deep understanding of the value of time, and highlights her work in the pursuit of prolonging the lives of others. For further information, or to donate to the James Wentworth-Stanley Memorial Fund, visit jwsmf.org. To learn more about Jaeger-LeCoultre timepieces and personalisation services, visit jaeger-lecoultre.com
B E N D U F F Y/ TA L I S K E R W H I S K Y AT L A N T I C C H A L L E N G E
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hector martelli Rarely was a topic as divisive as that of genetic manipulation. Here, veterinary surgeon and polo commentator Héctor Martelli explores the issue within the polo world I L L U S T R AT I O N : P H I L D I S L E Y
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The 18th-century British agriculturalist Robert Bakewell believed that genetic breeding should adhere to two principles: ‘breed the best to the best’ and ‘like produces like’. Having revolutionised the livestock industry with his research into the science of selective breeding, his principles offer relevant consideration today – three centuries later – on the topic of cloning. There are currently three methods being used to reproduce polo horses. The first is the natural way, where a stallion impregnates a mare and the pregnancy develops in the maternal uterus. The second involves an eight-day-old embryo being transferred from the mother (the donor) to the uterus of another mare (the receptor), who carries the foetus through to full term. With a 60-70 per cent success rate, this is currently the leading method of reproduction. The third and most contentious technique is cloning. This latter method involves extracting the genetic information from the nucleus of a donor egg and replacing it with cells that contain genetic information from the animal to be cloned. The egg and cells are fused together and the resulting embryo is grown in an incubator until it can be transferred to a suitable receptor mare to carry it to term. The process is complex and costly, but is producing highly successful results. The first cloned horse to play the Argentine Open, in 2013, was Adolfo Cambiaso’s mare Show Me – a copy of Sage, one of the greatest ponies owned by US breeder Charlie Armstrong. Cambiaso went on to play clones of his historical steeds Dolfina Cuartetera and Dolfina Lapa during the last Triple Crown. The 10-goaler himself has a clone of his beloved deceased stallion, Aiken Cura, as well as of the mare, Buenaventura, among others. ‘It seems I was not that crazy after all,’ Cambiaso told Argentine newspaper
T H E M AT C H S AW C A M B I A S O R I D E S I X C L O N E S OF CUARTETERA, WHOM HE CONSIDERED THE BEST HORSE HE EVER RODE
La Nación, after the final of the first tournament – the Tortugas Open – against Ellerstina. The championship match saw him riding six different clones of Cuartetera, who he described as the best horse he ever rode. Dolfina Cuartetera Clone 06 took BPP honours. ‘I was euphoric, because I’ve been dreaming of this for ten years. A final against Ellerstina… and all six clones played well. To me, it was a dream fulfilled,’ he beamed. Cambiaso’s success has served as a showcase to other high-goal players of the merits of cloning. Juan Martín Nero expressed enthusiastic views on the topic after Cambiaso allowed him to try the clones during practices: ‘It’s incredible. I have played Cuartetera herself and the similarities are incredible. I never thought cloning could give such great results. ‘I would like to clone some of my good mares,’ he added. ‘However, I have given some thought to the issue and I do think that cloning needs to be kept a bit under control.’ David Stirling, the Uruguayan 10-goaler who plays for La Dolfina, is also intrigued: ‘Following this season I believe the issue will change a lot,’ he said. ‘After what Cambiaso did with the Cuarteteras, cloning will be seen as a concrete possibility.’ However, not all corners of the polo world are as accepting. Veterinarian Jorge MacDonough owns one of Argentina’s most important equine reproduction centres, and considers cloning to only be suitable for horses with exceptional genetics and
aptitude. He has also remarked that the environment should be carefully considered, which includes the receptor – in terms of size and maternal aptitude for breastfeeding – plus weaning, post-weaning development and taming of the polo horse. Gonzalo Pieres, one of the greatest breeders of the Polo Argentino breed, is less optimistic about cloning and has voiced his concerns to La Nación: ‘Cloning is not breeding,’ he stated. ‘The problem is that it’s a copy, and copies are not always that good.’ He also raised questions about the lack of legislation surrounding the method: ‘Where are the limits?’ he asked. Pieres calls for rules: ‘Most horses that are cloned today came from Ellerstina, but they don’t have a patent,’ he says. ‘You copy a painting, and you sell it, you go to jail. But nothing happens within cloning. So there should be a limit and the owner should have a right over the brand.’ It seems to me that there’s nothing to object to in terms of the technique: it’s not simple, but it is successful, if costly. The right resources make it possible to produce an excellent string of horses, but the environment must be responsibly considered, and relevant legislation set up. Cloning certainly presents an alternative form of equine reproduction, but, as breeders point out, it does not improve genetics. ‘Breed the best with the best’ cannot be applied to cloning. Only with embryonic breeding can genetic advancements be made.
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G O U L B U R N N . S.W.
GUTTER CREDIT IN HERE
Almost a century ago, one family dynasty decided to try their luck playing polo on the other side of the world. The epic trip that followed redefined Australian polo throughout the global community, says scion Wallace Ashton
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uring the 1920s, in the space of eight years, my father and his brothers decided to learn polo. Little did they know this new pastime would lead to a legendary undertaking that would change their lives forever. My grandfather, James Ashton Sr, was a self-made man and former MP. He secured a good education for his four sons – Jim (my father), Bob, Geoff and Philip – in Sydney and, believing the future of Australia to be on the sheep’s back, sent them to Queensland to learn shearing. In the meantime, he bought a 20,000-acre property, Markdale, near Goulburn in New South Wales. Keen to meet the locals, Jim and Bob signed up to a polo club that was starting in Goulburn. During the first game, my father emerged as the most capable player, having played a couple of matches previously. Once the goals began to rack up, so too did the boys’ taste for the game. Once Geoff completed his training in Queensland and Philip had left school, they
joined their brothers on the farm and formed a polo team. During training sessions, they would spend many hours honing their soon-to-be-famous defence skills playing two-on-two on the ground below the homestead that’s still there today. At times it was an isolated life, but their new venture filled their weekends with black-tie events and, of course, tournaments. It was all about the win, for the boys: the individual game was often sacrificed in the interests of the team. Their ambition was to become the best in Australia, and to do that they had to beat the Ross team of Garangula – a goal they accomplished in 1924. In 1927, so the story goes, my grandfather was in New York on a business trip, rubbing shoulders with America’s most powerful, including Theodore Roosevelt and Louis Stoddard, president of the USPA. His sons soon joined him, and after impressing the locals with their knowledge of polo, began a long-standing relationship with their American counterparts. Before long, an
invitation was secured from Stoddard himself for the Ashton brothers to play polo in Long Island. But, on returning home, their news was met with derision from the Australian Polo Council (APC), who believed that if a team was going to Long Island, it should be chosen by them. A nasty political fight broke out and the APC ruled that it was to be settled in favour of the team that won the 1929 Dudley Cup, Australia’s most prestigious polo tournament. Determined as ever, the Ashton boys competed and won – but the governing body reneged on the deal, which led to the invitation being withdrawn. Philip suggested, in between mustering sheep, they should consider a self-funded trip to England. The risks were high and the costs enormous, but my father and uncles always loved a challenge, and they had my grandfather’s full confidence. Such was his belief in their ability, he bet the value of Markdale in order to underwrite the trip, on the condition that the boys sell their
A L L I M A G E S C O U R T E S Y O F T H E A S H T O N F A M I LY
The Ashton family at Markdale in New South Wales, Australia. Left to right: Geoff, Philip, James Sr, Jim and Bob
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ponies in England after the tournaments to pay back their costs. After the disaster with the APC, they decided to prepare in secret. They planned the journey with the welfare of the horses as paramount, choosing and customising a boat using coir matting and sand on deck. It was not until they were two weeks from leaving that they told the polo world. The APC was furious, but there was little it could do. Eventually, they were permitted to use the name ‘Goulburn Team from Australia’. It was the longest individual trip ever taken by sporting horses. The challenges the men faced included shipping 25 ponies and keeping them all fit enough to compete in 24-goal polo, while having little practical
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of the horses away. The boys managed to pull her back on board before another wave came over the deck and seemed to swallow up Philip. After a few panicky moments, they found him: he’d hidden behind a mast with a rope tied around his waist. Eventually they limped into Southampton to a wonderful reception – a special train awaiting with refreshment for the horses and grooms. ‘Jim, Geoff and Phil always said they could not remember a more wonderful feeling of satisfaction and relief,’ recalls Bob. After five weeks of settling in, they began slow chukkas. At one point early on, after
Opposite, from top: the brothers (from left: Philip, Geoff, Jim and Bob) en route to the UK; exercising the horses on the way to England. This page: an illustration of the Ashton brothers, 1930, which appeared in the British press
a gentle competitive practice, Bob heard one of the English players say: ‘It makes all the difference when we go full speed, doesn’t it?’ Aware of the low expectations the English polo scene had of their Australian guests, Bob’s pride was pricked. He told his brothers they should ‘get their best horses and have a go’ at it. Without a word, the Goulburn Team from Australia quietly switched ponies and came back for the second chukka intent on riding the Englishmen off. The brothers’ grunty little ponies outpowered the tall but far-from-solid English horses and destroyed them. It was at this point the Ashtons knew they could compete as equals. The press was enthralled. The Ashton brothers, with their good looks, charm, exotic background and sense of adventure, quickly became the toast of the town. The boys went on to win a string of trophies, and in 1930 beat Stephen Sanford’s Hurricanes – considered the best private team playing in England at the time – to lift the Whitney Cup. Everyone took note. Soon they were being feted with invitations that involved the Prince of Wales, King Alfonso of Spain and Dame Nellie Melba. Then came the prestigious Hurlingham Championship Cup. The boys had made the final and were once again pitted against the formidable Hurricanes. At the end of the fourth chukka, the score was 6–2 in favour of the Hurricanes. Jim brought out his favourite pony Checkers, who rode at top pace launching into a remarkable dribble across the length of the
N AT I O N A L L I B R A R Y O F A U S T R A L I A , A S H T O N F A M I LY
idea of how their horses or their team would perform alongside the premier polo teams of the time. Word of their trip had spread throughout the English polo world, and the feeling was that they’d be embarrassingly inferior to the others competing that season. The six-week trip itself was adventurous, and dramatic at times, but successful. Major passenger liners looked agog at these crazy Australians schooling polo ponies on deck as they passed along the Suez Canal. Once the boat reached the Mediterranean, an enormous storm erupted and a huge wave went over the bow, which almost swept one
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Left: The Hurlingham ground, 1930. Below: King Alfonso of Spain congratulates the Ashton brothers at Hurlingham
field, while being marked by his opponent Balding who was trying to hook him. At the time, Balding was considered one of the best players in the world, and so Dad was particularly proud he and Checkers were able to fend off such an esteemed player. The scores were soon level, but in the last chukka the Hurricanes hit two goals to nil and won. It was one of the most exciting matches ever played at the grounds. Afterwards, King Alfonso of Spain told my grandfather he was commissioning a cup to congratulate him and his sons on their huge undertaking. After a joyful season immersed in the polo and rarefied social life of the English season, the time came to sell the horses. But disaster struck: the stock market crashed. Buyers disappeared, and quality horses were selling for the price of meat. Out of the blue, the Americans rang and encouraged them to cross the Atlantic with their 25 horses. They were sure they could sell the ponies well there, but no expenses were offered. Once again, they were rolling the dice with potential disaster staring them in the face. Naturally, they took the gamble. After an eight-day trip, they finally reached the stables on Long Island. The city was waiting for them. The New York Times stated that ‘what was probably the greatest polo family in the world’ had arrived. The Ashtons became a part of the American polo world, which included such names as Tommy Hitchcock – the illustrious polo player who inspired F Scott Fitzgerald’s
Tom Buchanan in The Great Gatsby. The Ashton brothers won five of their seven matches in the US and made lifelong friends. The end-of-season horse auction was a resounding success, grossing US$77,600: equivalent to more than US$1 million today. Fluctuating markets then saw the pound halve in value against the dollar, leaving them in a position to buy three significant properties back home. My grandfather saw his dream of each son owning a property come true. It was a fitting end to an epic trip
that had succeeded against every setback. The brothers returned to London in 1937 to win the Hurlingham Championship Cup. The trophy holds pride of place at Markdale as an enduring tribute to the remarkable achievements of the ‘Four Horsemen’. The story of the Ashton brothers’ epic trip was made into a documentary, The Four Horsemen, directed by Peter Davies. It won Best International Equestrian Documentary at the NYC Equus Film Festival in November 2016
N AT I O N A L L I B R A R Y O F A U S T R A L I A , A S H T O N F A M I LY
KING ALFONSO OF SPAIN COMMISSIONED A CUP TO C O N G R AT U L AT E T H E B OY S O N T H E I R U N D E R TA K I N G
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POLO & SPORTING ART SPECIALISTS, ESTABLISHED in 1978
Lorne McKean, British Contemporary “Adolfo Cambiaso on Aiken Cura” Bronze “One of the world’s greatest equestrian sculptors” – The Telegraph
Thomas Holland, 20th Century (1917-2004) “Neck Shot” Bronze Thomas Holland, 20th Century (1917-2004) Robert “Hurricane Bob” Skene Bronze
In the collection of “the most famous female polo player in the world,” who was named the most valuable female polo player seven times.
The artist’s deep involvement in polo was such that he even was afforded the opportunity to present a sculpture to the Prince of Wales in 1981.
email@example.com | 845.505.1147 | www.chisholmgallery.com
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back in the saddle Groundbreaking new treatments are set to revolutionise the recovery rate of spinal cord injuries, as medical professor Hilali Noordeen explains 43
The devastating implications of a spinal cord injury are not to be underestimated, with patients sustaining serious long-term symptoms such as paralysis. However, state-of-the-art procedures that aid the recovery of nerve damage are in development, offering new hope for better rehabilitation. Professor Hilali Noordeen, consultant spinal surgeon at the Royal National Orthopedic Hospital in London, along with his colleague Professor Thomas Carlstedt, believes more funding is urgently needed to expedite the advancement and availability of specialist treatments for those affected. An ardent polo player since his student days at Oxford, Noordeen received a prestigious Blue award while playing for the university team and the Old Boys team, alongside contemporaries such as Robert Hanson. He also played in Team Sifani, competing in both the Queen’s and the Gold Cup. For the past three years he has participated in the Arena Gold Cup and enjoys playing polo in the UK throughout the year. One of Noordeen and Carlstedt’s success stories is the 8-goal Argentinian polo-player
Diego Cavanagh who, after sustaining a crippling spinal injury in February 2016, was left suffering with symptoms including back and neck pain, loss of sensation in his left arm, and insomnia. By carefully freeing the nerves from the fractured bone and disc material fusing the damage, and repairing the spine with an artificial disc, Cavanagh was cured in time to compete against Noordeen in the May 2016 Queen’s Cup, just one month after surgery. This remarkable recovery has inspired Noordeen and Carlstedt to even more vigorously pursue the development of techniques that can provide a cure for this kind of injury, as Professor Noordeen explains here. There are currently more than 2.5 million people worldwide living with paralysis as the result of a spinal cord injury, making it far more common than many people realise. The majority of those who endure it are young, and the effect on those afflicted can be devastating, affecting their personal prospects in a myriad of ways, from obvious physical impairment to battles with mental
health. The impact of such a condition can be far-reaching, influencing both the injured person’s personal and professional life, as well as having a wider impact on his or her family and friends. In 1995, I was appointed to treat spinal injuries at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH) in Stanmore, England. Much of this work was, and still is, focused on managing the aftermath of the injury, rather than curing the problem. In 1996, professor Thomas Carlstedt joined the RNOH team as a consultant orthopaedic nerve surgeon, in order to help develop research into curing such injuries. We knew that in order for a cure to be possible, we had to find a way to preserve and regenerate the affected nerves, and quickly set to work on pushing the boundaries within this area. Together, we successfully undertook the first repair of nerves of the spinal cord within the spinal canal, below the level of the end of the cord itself. The result was a complete recovery of the injured nerve roots, and this
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CERVICAL SPINE (7 VERTEBRAE)
THORACIC SPINE (12 VERTEBRAE)
LUMBAR SPINE (5 VERTEBRAE)
In a long series of experiments in the laboratory, Professor Carlstedt has explored the idea of re-implanting torn muscle fibres back into the spinal cord, and has observed that partial muscle function returns to the arms and legs. The recovery demonstrated as a result of this research shows that cells controlling nerve function from the spinal cord can regrow within the brain and spinal cord system – a phenomenon that has never been observed previously. This has been translated into a series of successful surgeries, resulting in a return of muscle function. The article in The Spine Journal described a case where a patient paralysed below the waist due to severed nerves below the spinal cord was, after surgery, able to walk independently – the first report of its kind. Over the past 25 years, Professor Carlstedt has worked tirelessly in pursuit of improving the rehabilitation potentials for spinal cord injury patients. Great progress has been made in terms of the improvement of motor function. However, shortcomings in medical techniques are proportional to delays in surgery, which is hugely detrimental as speedy treatment of spinal cord injury is essential in order to delay or prevent the death of nerve cells, and
G R E AT P R O G R E S S H A S BEEN MADE IN TERMS OF THE IMPROVEMENT OF MOTOR FUNCTION
revolutionary procedure was reported on in The Spine Journal – an international, peerreviewed medical publication. This breakthrough can be attributed to the combined knowledge that professor Carlstedt and I each brought from our respective fields. As such, we are actively and hurriedly pursuing the development of a cross-Atlantic collaboration between the various universities invested in researching the advancement of spinal cord injury rehabilitation avenues and techniques, in order that more medical advancements can be achieved as soon as possible. In order for muscle function to return after a spinal cord injury, nerve fibre regeneration needs to take place. Currently, damage to nerve-cell connection mechanisms is a major impediment to regeneration, as is the scar tissue that develops around the supporting cells following such a trauma. This scar tissue creates a physical barrier in which nerve fibres get trapped and inhibits the regeneration of the nerve cells that connect the uninjured parts of the cord. Most spinal cord injuries occur across the cord, creating a disconnection between the uninjured parts above the trauma with those below it. This interrupts the connection between the brain and the section of the cord below the injury level. In other cases, nerves attached to the cord can be torn, cut or pulled out, causing the nerves and their connection to the spinal cord to degenerate, which mostly affects the nerves to the arms or the legs, and typically results in paralysis and loss of sensation. During the first two weeks following a trauma, the activity within damaged spinal cells decreases by approximately 25 per cent, with further deterioration over time. Swift intervention is therefore vital to give the afflicated person the best possible chance of recovery. For function to be restored, there must be a regrowth of new fibres along the old pathways but there are cells that inhibit this growth. The trauma to nerves that are torn, cut or pulled out results in the death of sensory cells. The nerve signals diminish, which leads to abnormal sensory signals being sent, leaving the patient with clumsy and uncoordinated movement should any function reappear.
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THE NOGO PROTEIN: A NEW HOPE
Previous page: Diego Cavanagh back on the field following spinal cord surgery Opposite: Professor Hilali Noordeen playing at the Ockwells tournament in 2016. This page: Diego Cavanagh (left) chased by Sapo Caset during the 2016 Gold Cup
therefore the incomplete and unpredictable recovery of the nerves. Following surgery, a combination of medical therapies is required for nerve cell maintenance, as well as to augment the regeneration. This is the future of spinal cord injury recovery research, and, we believe, the most promising avenue along which to pursue better outcomes for patients. Therefore, the current status of research is now focused on the development and use of drugs that both help nerves to grow, and prevent any inhibition of such growth. Professor Carlstedt is currently focused on the development of a drug to assist with stem cell reimplantation and reconnections within the spinal cord, as this exciting area of research has shown great promise. While the surgical strategy remains the first and only example of successful spinal cord injury
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treatments in humans, there is considerable potential in the development of drugs to improve the outcome of surgical techniques and assist in the regenerative process. Funding is currently being sought in order to undertake phase II trials of such medications as they become available. The development of drugs in the laboratory and the transition of medication into human clinical therapy is a long and costly process; however, the prospective rewards are immense and could potentially transform the lives of thousands of spinal cord injury patients worldwide each year. Professors Noordeen and Carlstedt are seeking investment of £10m to fund further research into spinal cord injury treatments. For further information, or to make a donation, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
‘Despite the devastating symptoms of spinal cord injury, nearly all nerve cells are still alive,’ says Dr Stephen Strittmatter (above), professor of neuroscience at Yale University School of Medicine. ‘Disability results from the disconnection of nerve fibres, rather than cell loss. The fibres, or axons, are the long cellular extensions that normally send electrical signals to other cells.’ A research team, led by Strittmatter, is currently addressing the problem of axonal regrowth by asking whether adult brain axons have simply lost the ability to grow, or whether the adult brain contains molecules that suppress the ability of nerve fibres to reconnect after injury. Their work has isolated a protein called ‘Nogo’ that is present in the adult brain, which blocks axonal growth and repair. Nogo is produced by supporting cells and stops nerve-fibre repair by binding to a receptor protein. They have gone on to demonstrate that mice lacking Nogo or its receptor proteins recover more completely from adult injuries such as stroke or spinal cord damage. Removing this inhibitory pathway, therefore, allows the brain to repair itself by regrowing its web of impulseconducting fibres. Most critically, the team has discovered pharmacological treatments that block this pathway and improve spinal cord recovery in laboratory animals, even when provided long after trauma. This work holds great promise as a medical therapy to alleviate the suffering of thousands of people with spinal cord injuries.
For further information about Dr Strittmatter's research programme, or to make a donation towards it, please email email@example.com
a true 46
gentleman Ben Vestey pays tribute to his father, Mark – a pillar of the polo community and an inspirational president of the world-leading disabled-sports charity WheelPower – who will be remembered as a remarkable man and a much-treasured friend
MARK VESTEY GUTTER CREDIT IN HERE
19 4 3 -2016
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‘…Lord Vestey, known as Spam to his friends, and his brother Mark, who is in a wheelchair after a hunting accident…’ Variations on this snippet referring to my uncle Sam and my dad have surfaced in print over the years, but, however many times I read it, it never fails to make me smile. Not only has my uncle never once been called by that admittedly catchy moniker, but the self-evident fact that Dad had been sitting down since 1984 was surely not the single thing of note. Before the accident, for example, he had been at the helm of the Latin American side of the Vestey family business, benefiting enormously over the decades from the success summed up in the three words ‘Brazil’, ‘agriculture’ and ‘sugarcane’. Meanwhile, on the polo side of the ledger – entirely at the expense of any grasp of who won what, where and when – his recollections were couched almost exclusively in terms of the characters on the scene and the fathomless amounts of fun that was had by all those lucky enough to be there then. Framed photographs in the downstairs loo of various prize-giving ceremonies are the only acknowledgement of his not-insignificant feat of winning four Gold Cups and six Queen’s Cups along the way. After the accident, his time as president of WheelPower saw £17m raised for the redevelopment of the world-leading training and competition facilities at Stoke Mandeville Stadium for disabled men, women and children of all ages and abilities. Polo remained an overarching passion, enjoyed vicariously through others and in an active oversight capacity, culminating in his tenure as chairman of the Hurlingham Polo Association from 1995 to 2000, with an overlapping appointment as high sheriff of Gloucestershire in 1999. Thus it was that the mention of Dad’s accident and his subsequent confinement to a wheelchair seems so odd when considered in isolation and without the context of a full life lived undimmed and undaunted on either side of it. It is remarkable to look back on my father’s life and recall only one occasion when he displayed anything close to a raised temper. Disembarking from airplanes was a challenge in the early years and the aforementioned incident occurred when ground staff were struggling to grasp that he definitely couldn’t walk to the door of the plane to get back into his chair. But even that is hardly a satisfactory rant to report. Whenever, as children, we stumbled into the behindthe-scenes twice-daily rituals of preparation and repose that come with the territory of disability, it always struck my sisters Tamara, Nina and I as a remarkably jolly affair for our parents. Our father was entirely consistent, both in public and in private, and the best explanation for this must surely be his positive outlook,
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Previous page: Sam and Mark Vestey playing for England in Chicago, 1976. Opposite: Mark playing for Stowell Park, 1980. This page, from top: Stowell Park/Foxcote – Sam, Eduardo Moore, Mark, and Hector Barantes, 1978; stick and ball with daughter Tamara at home, 1984
coupled with our mother’s unwavering support. What passed between them was another story, but certainly not one we ever perceived during our growing-up. Tales of Dad’s life in and around polo were sometimes told over cigars and port, but rarely repeated, unless he was encouraged to do so. The Vestey brothers first encountered the sport when they were based in Kenya with the Scots Guards. My father’s finest hour back then involved what was, in its heyday, the best pony in the country: Napoleon. His owner was leaving Kenya for a few years and could not countenance losing him. Dad struck on the idea of offering to buy him for an appropriate price and sell him back at the same price if asked to do so at any stage. The handshake sealed it and, sure enough, Napoleon was played until the posting ran its course, just in time for his previous owner to return and buy him back at the same price. ‘It was downhill from there when it came to buying ponies, that’s for sure!’ my father would joke.
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D A D H A D A R A R E TA L E N T F O R P L AY I N G W E L L – O R BETTER STILL – WITH A COLOSSAL HANGOVER
This page: Ivy Lodge, Cirencester Park Polo Club, 1970s. Opposite: the Vestey Family (Mark, behind and Ben, fifth from left), Thorndale Farm, 2016
In similar self-deprecating fashion, he would attribute his success on the field in the Stowell Park and Foxcote teams (the former my uncle’s and the latter his own) as part fiscal firepower, part 10-goaler Eddie Moore’s mercurial talent and part Hector Barrantes’s skill in defence and visionary approach to managing the provision of horses. While I would never question Uncle Sam’s sporting commitment or prowess, presumably Dad had a rare talent for playing well – or better still – with a colossal hangover, as, by all accounts, prodigious dinner parties bookended most matches. In later years, as chairman of Cirencester Park Polo Club and then the HPA, my father wanted the best for the sport in the very broadest sense, and this earned him a considerable amount of respect along the way. Problems, when they arose, were dealt with over a long lunch with the threat of a repeat lunch should said problem not be resolved. He was viewed as a fair mediator and a peerless diplomat and his neutrality
was no doubt helpful when it came to finding middle ground, with the overlarge personalities involved usually averse to pitching their tent there. Through a combination of success on the field, then selfless service off it, his legacy within the polo community is that of a universally loved figure. That said, this wouldn’t necessarily have been entirely to his liking, as agreement negates the need for a prodigious lunch. Polo aside, there was one occasion during a dinner party at home that left a lasting impression on me as a teenager, struggling manfully to keep up. Over port and cigars, someone was being pompous about the difference between new money and old money. My father shuffled in his chair, took a puff and remarked, ‘The difference between old money and new money is that new money has money.’ The conversation moved on. Pondering what he’d said, I quietly asked him which we were. Without skipping a beat, but with that familiar twinkle in his eye, he replied, ‘Not nearly new enough, I’m afraid!’
A L L I M A G E S C O U R T E S Y O F T H E V E S T E Y F A M I LY
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I once asked a friend of my father’s what he was like before his accident and was reliably informed there was very little difference. A good man then, a good man now – and with a truly great woman keeping the show on the road regardless. It was what we used to call in the army a ‘two-man lift’, and would have been no mean feat over the decades. All in all, there is a disappointing dearth of dirt to dish on my father. This lack of discernible grit in the oyster was perhaps best articulated by Anthony Fanshawe, polo manager at Guards, who wrote, after my father’s passing, to say: ‘Mark had to be about the only person in the world about whom I never heard anyone say anything bad. That’s incredible (bordering on strange!) but it’s absolutely right. Without fail, he always cheered one up. And we all know how generous and fair he was to so many people. He epitomised what a real gentleman should be.’ Sir David Steel, one of Dad’s oldest friends, described him as a ‘modest, well-mannered, mild-tempered,
generous and courteous man who set an example to all of us in his determination to enjoy life, bring pleasure to his friends and avoid regrets’ and ‘whose wheelchair was invisible.’ He concluded: ‘Let us humbly express thanks for knowing such a good man.’ These words were manifested in the service of thanksgiving held at Cirencester church, which was full to the brim in every way. It was not lost on my father that his influence was appreciated by different people in different ways, but he would have been astonished at the collective goodwill demonstrated by so many people from all walks (and wheels) of his life. He would also have been tremendously heartened by the knowledge that his wife Rose and brother Sam – his two great constants – were consoled and supported in this fine and fitting way. Dad always said about polo that ‘the trick is to play with people you like, because it makes winning, and especially losing, a lot more fun’. I think we’d all agree that, both literally and metaphorically speaking, that was one trick he pulled off with aplomb.
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Juan Martin Nero dribbles the ball in front of the pack during the final of the Argentine Open
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5 4 _T H E T R I P L E C R O W N Argentina’s top tournament saw big wins for La Dolfina, some surprises from lowerrated teams and a much-anticipated Novillo Astrada brothers reunion 5 8 _T H A I P O L O C U P A R G E N T I N A Sixteen teams took part in this key event, with La Bien Mirada coming out on top, while an entertaining halftime show delighted fans
5 9 _T O W N S E N D C U P The USA defeated the UK in an evenly matched edition of this high-goal tournament 60_SCOTTSDALE POLO A report from ‘The World’s Greatest Polo Party’ 6 2 _ C O PA C A M A R A D E D I P U TA D O S Reigning champions El Remanso faced a surprising defeat at the hands of Alegría
64_CHILEAN OPEN 10-goaler David ‘Pelon’ Stirling lead Verfrut to Triple Crown victory over Casa Silva in a thrilling match in Santiago 6 5 _T H A I P O L O O P E N Inclement weather forced a draw between Dato’ Harald Link’s Thai Polo and Mohamed Moiz’s La Familia at one of the most important polo events in Southeast Asia
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ACTION T O R T U G A S O P E N , H U R L I N G H A M O P E N E AV NE ND T A NR AG ME NE T LI NO EC AOTPI EO N , DAART GE E N T I N A , N O V E M B E R - D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 6
THE TRIPLE CROWN A very successful 2016 Triple Crown in Argentina has come to an end. Before we begin, it is important to note that the most competitive polo tournament in the world featured the comeback of a single La Aguada foursome, comprised by the four Novillo Astrada brothers: Eduardo, Miguel, Ignacio and Alejandro. The last time the four brothers played together was in 2011, in a line-up that included the late and never-forgotten Javier. In 2012, they split into two teams – Javier, Miguel and Ignacio played for La Aguada,
while Eduardo and Alejandro formed La Aguada Las Monjitas. Following Javier’s passing in 2014, the remaining four brothers got back together to play in a 35-goal foursome during this past season. Among the other teams, there was one brand-new line-up for 2016 – El Paraíso, rated at 35 goals, and comprised of Agustín Merlos, the Toccalino brothers (Santiago and Ignacio) and Ignacio Heguy. Alegría hired Guillermo Caset Jr to make a 37-goal foursome. La Dolfina (40), Ellerstina (39) and Washington (33) remained the same.
The Tortugas Open marked the kick-off of the Triple Crown, as usual featuring the six highest rated teams, at an average of 36 goals. With La Dolfina and Ellerstina seeded first, the teams were broken down into two leagues. Titleholders La Dolfina took very easy wins against their contenders in the qualification stage. Though things were a bit harder for Ellerstina, they managed to make it to the final. Cambiaso and co captured their tenth consecutive title of the Triple Crown, which also meant they widened their winning streak to 36 consecutive
From the Novillo Astrada brothers’ comeback to La Dolfina’s big win, it was a banner year for Argentina’s premier polo tournament, says Héctor Martelli
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Opposite: Pablo MacDonough (left) races to the ball with Polito Pieres on his hip. This page, from top: Gonzalito Pieres scoring the winning goal in the Hurlingham Open final; Ellerstina coach Mariano Aguerre (left) with his team and Tunku Abdul Rahman (centre)
matches. They took an impressive 18–12 win over Ellerstina – an astounding victory as there is a gap of only one goal between the two teams. It was without a doubt a great match, played at full speed with plenty of excellent goals and great plays: a delight for any polo fan. The country’s oldest tournament and the second leg of the Triple Crown followed – the Hurlingham Open, for the legendary Ayrshire Cup. The six highest rated teams were joined by the two squads who won the classification: Cría Yatay and La Irenita, both rated at 29. As they were in the Tortugas Open, the teams were broken down into two leagues, comprised of four teams apiece. At this stage of the season, the teams looked stronger and were trying horses that would eventually play at Palermo. In addition, this tournament saw Alegría emerging as the third foursome – a serious contender for the two greats. But this time, it was not so easy for La Dolfina. They had to work harder during the qualification stage, and as a consequence, Ellerstina had a chance to finally end La Dolfina’s unbeaten status. The all-Pieres foursome showed a considerable improvement in their performance
I T W A S A G R E AT M AT C H , P L AY E D AT F U L L S P E E D W I T H P L E N T Y O F E X C E L L E N T G O A L S A N D P L AY S
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ACTION T O R T U G A S O P E N , H U R L I N G H A M O P E N E AV NE ND T A NR AG ME NE T LI NO EC AOTPI EO N , DAART GE E N T I N A , N O V E M B E R - D E C E M B E R 2 0 1 6
throughout the tournament against the lower rated teams. Both teams claimed their respective leagues and made it to another high-goal final. The titleholders aimed to win their 11th consecutive trophy within the Triple Crown, but they weren’t able to fulfil their goal. Ellerstina made a fantastic comeback and produced three unanswered goals in the last chukka to send the match into overtime. Then, Gonzalito Pieres picked the ball at 60 yards and ran at full speed towards the posts to score the winning goal. At the end of the day, Ellerstina had the rematch they’ve been waiting for since their last win at the Argentine Open final, back in 2012. In addition, La Dolfina lost their winning streak of 39 consecutive matches. With both teams having won one tournament apiece, the 123rd Argentine Open kicked off. The tournament featured the same eight teams who played the
previous contest at the English-born club, but with a new system of play. There were two leagues with four teams each. The winners of each league play the semi-finals, while those placed second and third would play crossed quarter-finals: the second in league A versus the third in league B, and vice versa. The winners of these games already played with the league winners. In both leagues’ qualification stages, due to the new system of play, which included four additional match days, all the teams needed more horses to play this first round to avoid repeating. They all had in mind that they would have to decide each league in a few days – whether to play the quarterfinals or the semi-finals. There were two big surprises in this first round, specifically in the two matches that determined third place. The two teams that emerged from the qualification, Cría Yatay and La Irenita, won their respective games
against two superior squads: Washington (33) and El Paraiso (35). In these two games, the newcomers demonstrated attitude, determination and good foresight; they were solid, better at stick-and-ball, fought hard to retain the ball, and most importantly, won the throw-ins. Their wins allowed them to play the quarter-finals with the secondplaced teams of each league. Alegría and La Irenita met up in the first quarter-final. Alegría had to fight to beat La Irenita by 13–11. But the biggest surprise came in the second quarter-final: 29-goal Cría Yatay displayed fast play by defeating the seasoned La Aguada Las Monjitas foursome (35) by a four-goal difference. The six teams who will play the 2017 Triple Crown emerged just before the semi-finals: it is no longer chosen by handicap, but rather determined by the standings of the previous Argentine Open. The new rules also specify that the teams –
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Oppostite: Nicolas Pieres showing his 10-goal form in the final. Left: La Dolfina lift the trophy for the fourth year in a row
THERE WERE TWO BIG SURPRISES IN THE F I R S T R O U N D , S P E C I F I C A L LY I N T H E M AT C H E S T H AT D E T E R M I N E D T H I R D P L A C E
La Dolfina, Ellerstina, Alegría, La Aguada, Cría Yatay and La Irenita – are allowed to make only one change in their line-ups. In the first of the semi-finals, the titleholders, La Dolfina, defeated Cría Yatay by an impressive 27–4, the highest ever score on Palermo’s no 1 ground. Such a big gap was due to the fact that La Dolfina didn’t repeat horses and they had to display their
potential after ten days without competition. They played brilliantly against a contender who played open polo, as though the large difference in handicap didn’t exist. Alegría and Ellerstina met up in the second semi-final. Things were very different as the all-Pieres line-up had to fight if they wanted to make it to the championship match. And so it happened – Alegría fought
hard until the sixth chukka, with Ellerstina holding a narrow one-goal lead. But based on their best horse string, both quality-wise and quantity-wise, Ellerstina just needed two chukkas to produce the goals they needed to win 15–11. And so, the most highly anticipated moment of the season finally arrived: the Argentine Open championship match, a true delight for every polo fan worldwide. The perfect scenario for the thrilling match was all set – a bright Saturday afternoon with 13,000 people packed into the grandstands overlooking Palermo’s no 1 ground, which looked in great condition despite the ten previous games. The final could be split into two parts. The first part saw Ellerstina displaying fast and powerful polo, led by Facundo and Nicolas Pieres; their aim was to show that they could repeat their win at the Hurlingham Open. La Dolfina, meanwhile, were a bit overwhelmed and seemed unable to put up their usual play. However, the average gap in the score rarely went beyond a couple of goals, mostly thanks to Nero and Stirling – Nero was true to form in attack as well as in defence, and Stirling worked hard to score goals at the right time. The second part lasted only two-anda-half chukkas. La Dolfina finally woke up. With Nero’s and Stirling’s attitude, plus the brilliant play provided by Cambiaso and MacDonough, they made a fantastic comeback and overwhelmed their rival. At the end of the day, La Dolfina won by four goals in their tenth Argentine Open title. Now that the season has come to an end, we can rank the teams, and the winners La Dolfina are way out in front. Picture a ten-step stairway: at the top, on step ten, are La Dolfina. Ellerstina are next on the eighth step, followed by Alegría on the sixth. The rest of the teams, however, wouldn’t rise beyond the fifth step.
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ACTION T H A I P O L O C U P , T EHVAEI N PT O NL AO MCEL UL BO ,C AATRI GO ENN DT IA NT AE , N O V E M B E R 2 0 1 6
THAI POLO CUP ARGENTINA The third edition of the annual tournament saw La Bien Mirada take the title, while the halftime show wowed the crowds, writes Carolina Beresford
Gastón Maiquez (number 1 of Power Horse) on perfect form, practicing penalty shots before the final
Sixteen teams took part in the third edition of the Thai Polo Cup in Argentina. The tournament has become a key part of the Argentine spring season, attracting patrons and players from all over the world. ‘We started the tournament in 2014 with six teams,’ explains manager Manuel Cereceda. ‘Ten teams played last year and now we have 16 competing at a 14-goal level. We are thrilled with how the tournament has been received and our aim is to continue growing.’ After ten days of polo, Fabio Meier’s La Bien Mirada were set to face Walter Scherb’s
Power Horse in the final. The match was fast-paced and competitive, with both teams playing attractive, open polo. Power Horse got off to a good start, as an inspired Gastón Maiquez scored the first goals for his team. Pablo Jauretche fought hard to level the score for La Bien Mirada, while Fabio Meier, Pato Bolanterio and Juan Jauretche put together an effective defence, making it to the end of the third chukka with the advantage. As usual, polo wasn’t the only attraction at Dato’ Harald Link’s tournament. The classic halftime showdown saw a Bugatti
race a polo horse – this time, Salvador Jauretche’s mare, India – much to the delight of more than 800 spectators. Both Pablo and Juan Jauretche came out fighting in the second half, determined not to let their lead slip. The final bell rang and La Bien Mirada came out on top, beating their rivals 9–8. After the prize-giving, America’s Got Talent dance group Malevo surprised guests with a brilliant show, before fireworks lit up the sky. The dance floor filled and guests of all ages boogied the night away – the perfect end to a fantastic tournament.
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In a closely fought game of arena polo, the USA beat the UK 18 to 16 at Scottsdale this January, reports Jennifer Parks-Sturgeon
Attendees of the Barrett-Jackson Car Auction at the WestWorld equidome in Scottsdale, Arizona, also witnessed a hypercompetitive game of high-goal arena polo. The John R Townsend International Challenge Cup has been played between the USA and the UK biannually since 1928. This year, the American team was represented by tournament veteran Tommy Biddle Jr (10), Shane Rice (7) and Steve Krueger (4). Challenging them were Jonny Good (8), Max Charlton (9) and Ed Banner-Eve (5). The UK made it onto the board early in the opening chukka, but Krueger quickly answered. USA fought hard, ending the first chukka with a 5–3 lead. Biddle began the second chukka with a booming two-point backshot to goal that brought the crowd of 1,500 to their feet and pushed the score to
7–3. Charlton retaliated, scoring three consecutive goals in the first three minutes and adding two more later in the chukka. The USA continued to match them, however, maintaining a 10–8 lead going into the half. Krueger scored at the onset of the second half. Charlton, hungry for the win, made a decisive shot from the 40-yard line to put an additional two goals on the board, followed by another out of the line-up to tie the game 11-all. A goal from Banner-Eve put the UK in the lead by one, but an attempt to clear the ball from in front of the UK goal by Good resulted in a goal for the USA. The game was tied 12-all going into the final chukka and the British team quickly pulled ahead by two. Biddle answered with a two-pointer to tie it back up. Krueger and Rice followed with four combined goals to
MVP Steve Krueger of USPA taking the ball on the near side
recapture the lead 18–14. Feeling the pressure, Charlton scored a two-pointer with two minutes left in regulation play. Biddle lofted the ball into the rafters with less than six seconds left; the ball was thrown in and the UK had a breakaway. Charlton took a strong shot to goal, but time ran out. USA captured the Townsend Cup with a final score of 18–16. MVP was awarded to Steve Krueger, and BPP was presented to Woody, owned by George Dill. Non-profit USPA youth life-skills club Being the Change organised the tournament.
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ACTION BENTLEY SCOTTSDALE POLO CHAMPIONSHIPS, ARIZONA, USA, NOVEMBER 2016
SCOTTSDALE POLO PARTY Arizona has been home to some of the sporting world’s most watched and discussed events, including the National Football League’s Super Bowl and Major League Baseball’s World Series. And towards the end of last year, all eyes within the polo world were fixed upon the desert state as, on 5 November, polo’s hottest stars converged on the fields of Scottsdale’s event centre, WestWorld, for the sixth annual
Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships – aka ‘the World’s Greatest Polo Party.’ More than 12,000 fans gathered to watch the four polo matches that took place over the course of the bright, sunny day. During the first game, the La Jolla Polo Team, sponsored by Nationwide Insurance, were felled by Purely Sedona’s Polo Azteca team 11–5. In the second match, Molina Fine Jewelers’ Scottsdale All-Stars lost a bitterly
fought contest to Northwestern Mutual’s Palm Springs Polo Team, 9–7. In the day’s featured match, defending champions Bentley Aspen Valley Polo Club won the coveted Molina Cup by holding off BarrettJackson’s Palm Beach Polo Team 7–5. In this featured match, Aspen Valley’s owner Melissa Ganzi scored an impressive four goals to lead her teammates to the win. Other players on her team included America’s
T H E P O LO PA RT Y
Record crowds flocked to the Arizona sports ground for a packed day of music, fashion, cars and some great polo, says Jennifer Parks-Sturgeon
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Opposite: Chloe Carabasi on the ball. This page: Marc Ganzi in front of his wife Melissa
top polo player Nic Roldan and young star Juancito Bollini. The day rounded out with the inaugural Women’s Sunset Polo Match, when Stick and Ball’s Chloe Carabasi scored seven of her team’s 13 goals against Soho Scottsdale’s team, which only managed three. In between the action there were other distractions to entertain the record crowds: a concert, featuring Scottsdale Philharmonic and hip-hop violinist Maestro Hughes; a canine fashion show; a collector car auction; and, of course, the Stella Artois Pavilion, complete with DJs, cocktails and dancing until the early hours.
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ACTION COPA CÁMARA DE DIPUTADOS, BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA, DECEMBER 2016
COPA CÁMARA El Remanso’s champion reign comes to an end as Alegría take the win at Palermo, writes Darlene Ricker
Alegría HPA took an upset victory in the 2016 Copa Cámara de Diputados final (Chamber of Deputies Cup), defeating defending champions El Remanso 13–11 in Palermo on 10 December, in the second-highest-rated polo tournament in the world after the Argentine Triple Crown. The match took place on field no 2, four hours before the 2016 Argentine Open final, which was played afterward on field no 1. Some of the earlier
Cámara games took place at the AAP’s fields in Pilar, with the semis and finals at Palermo. The ultimate final was scheduled on the same day as the one for the Open, in order to boost attendance, and it worked. The Cámara final was tied at the end of every chukka until the fourth, which closed 8–8. El Remanso had a strong fifth chukka, but then everything changed: Alegría incrementally pulled ahead, holding El
Remanso scoreless for each of the last three chukkas to take the victory 13–11. Alegría’s Francisco Elizalde, the player of the day, was high scorer with six goals. The tournament had an international flair this year, with two foreign patrons: Englishman Charlie Hanbury (El Remanso) and Canadian Julian Mannix (Alegría HPA). Mannix found the Cámara to be ‘a great tournament – I saw it as a stepping stone
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Opposite: winners Alegria with Fred Mannix Sr (centre). This page: airborne Julian Mannix followed by Francisco Elizalde and Nachi du Plessis (in white)
T H E T O U R N A M E N T H A D A N I N T E R N AT I O N A L F L A I R , W I T H T W O F O R E I G N PAT R O N S
to play in the Argentine Open one day, which is my ultimate goal.’ He said the combination of players on the Alegría slate clicked. ‘Our team had good chemistry. I knew we would because my three teammates have played together, and it was that way for them.’ Mannix said he was excited when he learned that El Remanso had won the semi-finals. After the final he said, ‘It was a lot of fun playing against Charlie [Hanbury]. He’s a class act. I knew he would have a strong team. I was hoping all along that we’d get to play against them.’ Eduardo Heguy, coach for El Remanso, said it felt good to be in the final again. ‘We
won it the last two years, but this year it was special because we had Charlie back. He missed the tournament last year because of an injury.’ The 2016 tournament had started with 24 teams vying to qualify for the 16 spots in the final round. ‘We made it through some really tough games – some of them in overtime – to make it to the final,’ said Heguy. ‘At the beginning of the final game we were ahead and had control, but we didn’t finish as well and they won. We are proud to make it to the final again.’ Both teams had faced stiff competition in the semi-finals. El Remanso had narrowly
defeated La Indiana Biopôle 10–9, and Alegría had overtaken the mighty La Dolfina Rio Uruguay 14–10 in a match that had seen Alegría take an early two-goal lead, with La Dolfina soon tightening the gap to within one goal. Just about maintaining their lead throughout, at times Alegría drew level during the fifth chukka (8–8), before finally surging ahead in the sixth with five goals, keeping La Dolfina off the board. The game ended with a four-goal victory for Alegría. The semi-final match between El Remanso and La Indiana Biopôle was a nail-biter all the way to the end. The score was tied at 9 going into the final chukka, before El Remanso got another goal to win. In the tournament awards, the AAP prize for the Best Playing Pony of the final went to Marta, played by Elizalde. The AACCP trophy for the best Argentine-bred pony went to Open Buchón, played by Jaime García Huidobro.
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ACTION THE CHILEAN OPEN, SANTIAGO, CHILE, DECEMBER 2016
T H E C H I L E A N O P E N Verfrut celebrates becoming Triple Crown champions as David ‘Pelon’ Stirling leads the team to victory at the Chilean Open, writes Carolina Beresford
In the evenly pitched final of the Chilean Open on 18 December 2016, Verfrut beat Casa Silva 8–7 in a thrilling match to become champions at San Cristobal Polo Club in Santiago. Verfrut’s advantage came from their secret weapon: 10-goaler David ‘Pelon’ Stirling – recent winner and MVP of the Argentine Open. Despite their loss, Casa Silva fought hard throughout the match, battling back from a 1–4 disadvantage at halftime to tie the game 4–4 by the end of the fourth. Two quick goals by Pelon put Verfrut back in the lead, but Casa Silva didn’t give up; Matías Vial lead their attack and scored
in the last seconds to tie the game and send the match into extra chukka. The seventh period was marked by fouls as tension rose; in the end it was Pelon who scored a 40-yard penalty to win the title for Verfrut. The win makes the team Triple Crown champions after securing previous victories at the Club and Handicap, which alongside the Chilean Open are the three most prestigious tournaments in Argentina. ‘It was a really tough final,’ says Pelon. ‘We started off well but things got complicated in the fourth when they managed to level the score. The match came to a head in the last minute of the sixth chukka with a foul
against us; it’s always 50-50 when you go into overtime but luck was on our side and we managed to win.’ ‘Our game plan was to get organised and give Pelon time to steer the game, which is what we did,’ explains Verfrut’s José Donoso. ‘It was going to be a long game and we knew that it would come down to the last minutes of play.’ Donoso, one of the best Chilean players in polo history, has now won the Chilean Open ten times. ‘It is really special coming back here and playing on the no 1 ground. It brings back a lot of memories, and winning here with all my family watching is amazing.’
VA L E N T I N A TA G L E
The Donoso family celebrate José’s big win
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ACTION THAI POLO OPEN, PATTAYA, THAILAND, JANUARY 2017
Mohamed Moiz (left) and Dato’ Harald Link share the Thai Polo Open trophy
THAI POLO OPEN
The Southeast Asian tournament culminated in a well-matched final where both teams shared the glory of joint first place, says Carolina Beresford
This January, the Thai Polo & Equestrian Club was once again the setting for a fabulous tournament: the prestigious Thai Polo Open. This 12-goal competition has become one of the most important polo events in Southeast Asia, taking place every January at Dato’ Harald Link’s beautiful club in Pattaya, Thailand. Five teams took part in this year’s tournament, including home team Thai Polo, Mohamed Moiz’s La Familia and Brian Xu’s Axus. Link’s team narrowly missed out on last year’s title, losing the cup to 22BR – so this season, their eyes were firmly set on the prize. Their determination paid off: Thai Polo
made it to the final with a 3-1 record, ready to face La Familia – a team they had defeated by half a goal in the league stages. The home team got off to a good start, which was down to the leadership of 7-goal Argentinian Agustin Garcia Grossi, but La Familia responded quickly, with Gines Bargallo scoring an impressive goal to tie the game at the end of the first. The second chukka saw fast, open play, with Thai Polo leading the attack. La Familia stayed solid in defence, but Grossi scored once again, as did Dato’ Harald. An inspired Moiz sped up and down the field, scoring two consecutive goals just as the first
raindrops started to fall. The rain got heavier in the third chukka and the game was temporarily suspended. The weather failed to improve and, with the safety of players and horses in mind, the captains of each team decided to cancel the rest of the game and share the Thai Polo Open title. Mohamed Moiz was named MVP, while Link’s Zorro, played by Pablo Jauretche, was chosen as Best Playing Pony. A cheerful awards ceremony and dinner followed. Despite the result, the day was characteristic of events organised by Link and the club’s polo manager Manuel Cereceda: filled with fun, laughter – and champagne!
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PLAYING AWAY A rare opportunity to compete in San Salvador in 1954 proved unexpectedly memorable for Yale Polo members Doug Barclay and Joe Williams, writes Antonia Campbell
For Yale Polo players today, away games tend to mean a few hours packed into a crowded car with textbooks, headphones and a generous amount of iced coffee. But alumni Doug Barclay (1955) and Joe Williams (1956) can remember one tournament that was a very different kind of travel experience. During the winter of 1954, Salvadorian Yale Polo member Larry de Sola invited the team to his home town to compete against collegiate-level teams from Guatemala, Mexico and El Salvador. He offered to let the team stay with his family for free, as long as they found their own transport. Yale accepted the challenge and sent Williams off to New York to meet Juan Trippe, chairman
of Pan American World Airways. When Trippe realised Williams was asking for five seats – not a cargo liner full of horses – he gave him the tickets, threw in four free tourist passes and told him to get out of his office. Both Williams and Barclay remember an idyllic stay at De Sola’s beautiful coffee plantation and an exciting tournament. Yale had a lot of fun, despite only winning one of their games. Williams recalls at one point during a match, their fourth player Freddie Lutz’s horse had run off the pitch and was jumping over tombstones in a nearby graveyard with rider in tow. Despite Williams later being thrown into the air along with his saddle (after his girth
broke), no one was hurt beyond bruised prides after the games. Doug Barclay returned to El Salvador in 2003 as US Ambassador under the Bush administration, where he attended a polo match and had the good fortune to meet some of those present in 1954 (although, sadly, his opponents were all deceased). The 1954 San Salvador tournament is a perfect example of how a community of polo players, students and supporters can come together through unconventional channels. Although polo at Yale is no longer a Varsity sport, travelling to our opponents remains a pleasure and a privilege, and the ties between teammates remain for years to come.
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